Talk about your star studded call sheet! Shawn Levy’s This is Where I Leave You boasts such familiar names as Jane Fonda, Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Rose Byrne, Timothy Olyphant and Adam Driver in an intelligent comedy based on the novel of the same name by Jonathan Tropper.
The film surrounds the Altman family who gather together after the death of their patriarch father. The family was not Jewish, but the father’s final wish was that they practice Shiva after his passing which means that all immediate family members must live under the same roof for a total of seven days. That meant that Judd (Jason Bateman), Wendy (Tina Fey), Paul (Corey Stoll) and Phillip (Adam Driver) must spend a week entertaining mourners at their home with mother figure Hilary (Jane Fonda).
The reassembled Atlman family bring more to their father’s home than just physical luggage. Emotional baggage is thrown over the shoulder of each sibling. Judd just recently caught his wife in bed with his boss (Dax Shepard). Wendy has two children and a domineering husband with an emotional disconnect. Paul is the self appointed leader of the family and is desperately trying to have a baby with his ever frustrated wife. And Phillip? Well, let’s just say that every family has a Phillip.
As the days progress, neighbourhood history, old friends and acquaintances and stories of happier days gone by come front and center in sometimes hilarious and sometimes poignant fashion. Director Shawn Levy (The Internship, Night at the Museum) walks the proverbial tightrope between the comedy and dramatic genres with relative ease giving us just enough of everything with not too much of anything to strike a chord with his audience.
Jason Bateman easily has his best role as the non-complicated Judd. Judd’s story is by far the most developed and Bateman does a superb job of relaying Judd’s emotional roller coaster ride of juggling family amongst his own life-changing issues.
Adam Driver gets maybe the most hearty laughs due to his irrational and irresponsible character in Phillip. But the laughs are generally spread even with each family member getting their own moment to shine in the ensemble.
There are a few running jokes in the film that wear thin early (Hilary’s boobs and Wendys son’s potty-training but generally Levy is able to score by bringing together a dysfunctional family that is likely not different from many of its audience. A few adult situations will ensure the movie is PG-13 and would likely need to have a few minutes cut from the film in order to play well on network television.
There hasn’t been a good family comedy that clicked as well as This is Where I Leave You for some time. And its cross-generational to boot with Fonda, Bateman and Driver each appealing to their age demographic. And in a sea of unfunny gross-out comedies without a focus, it was refreshing to see Levy’s take of Jonathan Troppers novel. It’s not hold your ribs funny, but it is just funny enough to tickle our fancy and give it a recommendation!